Kolkata – the city of Joy. Yes, we have heard this common tag innumerable times but do you know that Kolkata is also known as the ultimate food destination of India? Yes, you heard that correct. Being born and brought up in Kolkata has always been a perk. The range of distinct cuisines and food, this city has to offer, has shaped up the food palates of most of the avid foodies around here.
The cuisine of Kolkata is mainly known for its traditional spicy Bengali curries, street food culture, Mughlai cuisine, its wide range of sweets and its very own Rosogolla. The rich history and culture of Bengal have a lot of influence on its food. The British influence, enriched and enhanced the cuisines of Kolkata.
So now, let us delve into the top 12 cuisines to taste in Kolkata, which would cause anybody a severe food coma.
Petai Porota with Ghugni or Chholar Dal
In each and every nook and corner of Kolkata, one would definitely find a crowd of office-goers surrounding a small roadside stall to ease their morning appetite with a plate of Petai Porota with Chholar dal or Ghugni. The word ‘Petai’ in Bengali means ‘to beat’, the parantha or Porota (as we Bengali people call it) after roasted on Tawa, is beaten, crumbled and torn into soft, stretchy and crispy pieces. They taste heavenly once dunked in a bowl of Chana Dal or Bengal Gram curry. It can also be paired up with Ghugni, a thick traditional gravy made with dried yellow peas and chopped up potatoes. A fun fact- this particular parantha is sold by weight and not in pieces.
Basanti Pulao with Mutton Kosha
Basanti Pulao is a Bengali traditional dish that is mainly prepared for special occasions. The word ‘Basanti’ indicates the yellow colour of the rice, which is made with Gobindo bhog rice( Short grained, white, aromatic rice). It adds up to the flavour and aroma of the pulao. Raisins and cashew nuts are added to give it a sweet flavour. It is also known as ‘Mishti Pulao’ or ‘Holud Pulao’. But when paired up with some spicy, cooked mutton kosha, anybody will be floored. The word ‘Kosha’ means bhuna. Mutton Kosha is a Bengal delicacy where the mutton is slowly cooked with all of the traditional spices on low flame to get a rich, dark brown gravy and melt-in-mouth, tender pieces of mutton. Kolkata’s best Mutton Kosha can be found at a small, old and dingy shop named ‘Golbarir Kosha Mangsho’ situated on the streets of Shyambazar. When in Kolkata, one has to try this sinful, meaty meal.
It is a popular food item from the cuisine of Kolkata. It was first served to the Britishers when they use to crave their cutlets from back home. The name ‘Kabiraji’ came from mispronouncing the word ‘coverage’. It is basically a fish cutlet wrapped in a coating of a mesh which is made of egg. This can also be done with minced chicken or mutton. The moment, one bite onto the crispy coating, the fish or the meat melts inside the mouth. The taste of Kabiraji is elevated once dipped into the tangy sauce of mustard( also known as ‘Kashundi’ in Bengali), which acts as a major flavour-bomb. The fish used in the preparation of Kabiraji is generally pure Bhetki (a locally caught silverfish, also known as Barramundi or Asian Sea Bass). Mitra Café, one of the oldest cabins of Kolkata, serves the best Kabiraji in the city.
Chicken Egg Roll
Kolkata style, Kanthi roll is another regular binged on street food. It is an integral part of the cuisine of Kolkata. It is mostly available in variations in chicken, egg, mutton and in different combinations at different shops and restaurants. A bed of chicken or mutton kebabs are dressed with a salad, chilli sauce and some chopped chillies. To top it, some masalas are sprinkled with a tinge of lemon juice. Which is then wrapped beautifully in an egg fried Lachha (means layers) parantha. The name Kanthi roll prevails from the process of cooking the meat. The kebabs are threaded into a bamboo skewer or Kanthi and then cooked over live charcoal. Nizams in Kolkata were the first to treat the foodies of Kolkata with this lip-smacking snack.
Yet another iconic delicacy of Kolkata cuisine is Bhetki Paturi. Bhetki is a locally caught silverfish, also known as Barramundi or sea Bass. It is a fillet of Boneless Bhetki, marinated in spicy mustard, poppy seed, and chilli paste. It is then wrapped and tied up in a banana leaf with thread. Lastly, it is roasted on a Tawa with a lid on the top. It cooks in the steam or what is traditionally known as ‘Bhapa’ in Bengali. It is served hot with some steamed white rice. The strong flavours of mustard and the buttery texture of the fish is definitely a heart stealer.
Kolkata Style Biryani
There are lots and lots of taking on Biryani, for instance, Lucknowi Biryani, Hyderabadi Dum Biryani, Andhra style Biryani and etc. Much like that, the cuisine of Kolkata is thoroughly incomplete without its own rendition of Biryani. It is mostly famous for its light flavours, aromatic rice, big chunky, juicy pieces of meat and of course, its signature ‘aloo’ or potato and a boiled egg. For years, a Mughlai cuisine restaurant named, ‘Arsalan’, is serving Kolkata with its delightful Biryani. Kolkata biryani without a big, flavorful aloo is a deal-breaker for every Bengali.
Koraishutir kachuri with Aloor Dum
A perfect Bengali winter breakfast must have some crispy Koraishutir Kachuri with aloor dum on the side. Koraishuti Kachuri is basically nothing but seasoned mashed peas stuffed in a flour dough ball which is rolled into small flat circles to deep fry in oil. The aloo r dum whereas, which is a dry curry-based dish made with winter’s, the first harvest of baby potatoes (also referred to as the ‘Notun aloo’). But when these two are paired up, it becomes a match made in heaven.
The only evening snacks which are relatively consumed by the entire Bengal with a happy heart, are the varied deep-fried fritters that are very easily available at the localities of Kolkata. ‘Telebhaja’ is basically anything deep-fried in oil. There is a variety of deep-fried stuff available, like Aloor chop, Beguni, Phuluri, Vegetable Chop, Egg Devil. The most popular, aloor chop is prepared with mashed potato seasoned with spices, which are dipped in a thick batter to deep fry and is served with some puffed rice. These are mainly fried with veggies like Brinjal, Onions. Boiled half of eggs, constructed with mashed potatoes are coated in bread crumbs and deep-fried to form some delicious egg devils, which is definitely Kolkata’s favourite.
This is the heartthrob of Bengali street food and the beating heart of the cuisine of Kolkata. Never confuse it with Pani Puri or Golgappa. It deserves a mention in itself. These crispy little deep-fried balls stuffed, with a filling of spicy mashed potato, are dipped in a tangy tamarind water mix, which once put into the mouth, creates a party of flavours. Phuchka comes in various forms like Aloor dum Phuchka, Doi (Curd/Dahi) Phuchka, Ghugni Phuchka and it also dresses up as ‘Churmur’, which is basically the deflated Phuchkas crushed with some potato and spice mix.
The cuisine of Kolkata will always remain incomplete without sweets. Rosogolla will always be the sweetheart of Bengal, but Rosogolla baked in malai is a different jam altogether. The new twist on this classic Bengali sweet serves as an extravagant, rich, decadent dessert. Many of the popular, legendary shops such as Balaram Mallick, Banchharam etc has some of the best-baked Rosogolla to offer. For Bengali’s, it’s not just a sweet but an emotion.
Nolen Gurer Payesh
A rich iconic delicacy of Kolkata, which is often cooked up at every Bengali household especially during birthdays. Among Bengalis, it is a ritual to feed ‘Payesh’ during birthdays. Nolen Gurer Payesh is a very under-rated sweet dish yet a delicious one. The hero of this dish is the ‘Nolen Gur’ or Jaggery made from the juice of date palms. It is made of Gobindo Bhog Rice, boiled milk, Jaggery, some cardamom and dry fruits. It’s sweet heaven for all the sweet tooth.
We all know about the regular jalebi but in Kolkata, even Jalebi has gotten a new twist. The curdled milk is also known as ‘Chhana’ is made into this fried Jalebi like shape and dipped in sugar syrup to serve. These soft, delicate rings of heaven just melt in the mouth. Although a lesser-known dish, but is equally popular among the people of Kolkata.
To be honest the list is endless, because Bengali’s are born foodies. But the varied cuisine of Kolkata would never let any of its visitors leave without an unforgettable foodie experience.